I don’t think I need to go over ‘what a year 2020’ was again, but it was a particularly significant one for me as it marked 20 years of being a wedding photographer! I wrote the following article for Professional Photo Mag to celebrate but I think the advice here still rings true a year later. Think of it as my cheat sheet of what I’ve learned in the last two decades, ready to apply to your business at any time.
1- UNDERSTAND THAT IT’S NOW A BUYER’S MARKET
To me, I believe that this is the single biggest shift in our industry within my time in it. In 2000 and in 2010 it was most definitely a Seller’s Market. There simply were a lot less professional wedding photographers around and that led to a sense that the good ones got booked up quickly. So you could market yourself with a certain amount of swagger, you had the power. Like most things in life, the circle has turned and marketing your wedding photography business in 2020 means being conscious that the power is now with the Buyer. It’s just a result of a big influx of new photographers whilst the number of couples getting married has not increased much per year. It doesn’t annoy me, I love marketing and see it as a new challenge. I also think it’s because some of us have been making it look so appealing for so long!
2- WRITE EVERYTHING WITH THAT BUYER’S NEEDS IN MIND
So now that we know we are in a Buyer’s Market, we know that we need to consciously set out our stalls with that in mind. Think about all the touch points that you have with potential Buyers. Maybe it starts with a social media post or a directory link, then you funnel them over to your blog posts or your homepage. Refresh all of your copy to address needs that couples might have not your own needs. Your needs might be ‘I want to shoot this style of wedding in these areas’ – their needs are more likely to be ‘I feel quite stressed about the idea of being photographed all day’.
3- POST AT LEAST 4 TIMES A WEEK ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Algorithms, who knows what they really do or how they will keep changing. One thing that I do know for certain is that all social media loves consistency. You don’t have to be a slave to the ‘Gram or constantly sitting on Facebook and I’m sure new social media channels will crop up in the next decade. Whatever ones that you use, just try to show up regularly and you should see increased engagement.
4- SHOW YOUR FACE
Yes, I know that you got into photography because you like to hide on the other side of the camera but people connect with people. Use your website and your social media to show your actual face every now and then and don’t be afraid to show your personality.
5- POST STORIES
This is your perfect place to show that personality of yours and to let people in behind the scenes. Don’t aim for perfection in Stories on Instagram or Facebook, just be real. Use your main grid for your best work. Think of that as your Portfolio and Stories as your Newsletter.
6- NICHE DOWN
In a busy market, I believe that you can never be too niche. A poor strategy right now is trying to appeal to everyone, you will simply get lost. Figure out who is your ideal client and tailor all your marketing to appeal to that type.
Hell, when I started out 20 years ago, this meant taking out an ad in the Yellow Pages and doing the odd wedding fair. Ten years ago consistently showing up on social media and getting features on blogs and magazines was enough but in 2020’s much busier market you need to have more of an across-the-board PR campaign running and that means paying for some ads on social media and in magazines or blogs. Anywhere that you think that ideal client of yours is hanging out. And remember to write your copy with their needs at the front of your mind.
8- MEET OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS
Another thing that we didn’t do in 2000 was spend so much of our time online. To chat to our peers, we had to go out in the real world. I’ve always maintained this and find that spending time with fellow photographers, isn’t about being competitive – it’s about supporting each other. This industry can be tough and for a healthy mind, it is extremely valuable to have real friends that know what it’s really like.
Again, try to do this offline as much as online. That wedding planner that you’d like to get in with probably gets many DMs a week from photographers but if you meet them at an industry event and hit it off then they are more likely to remember you and maybe recommend you. Don’t have lots of events going on near you? Remember that every wedding that you go to is an opportunity to network and there will be a team of other suppliers involved.
10- BE NICE
Well maybe this tip is obvious but sometimes it can be hard to do. I do my best to be nice to everyone at a wedding as they could all potentially recommend you in the future. This even means the caterers who can sometimes be a little weird about giving you your food. I understand that their job can be hard too.
11- NEVER SHOOT WITHOUT A CONTRACT
Remember weddings are a huge deal in people’s lives, the emotional investment and financial investment runs high. And this is often not just with the couple but can be with their families as well. Protect yourself with a contract and always get it signed at the booking stage. If you need to get one, there is one in The Barn that you can download. This is the online resources and training that I offer with Photography Farm.
12- TELL YOUR CLIENTS TO GET WEDDING INSURANCE
I see photographers in groups so often saying that someone wants to cancel them or cancel their entire wedding and is asking for their payment back. It feels really horrible if you say no and yet be assured that their venue and most of their other suppliers will be sticking to their contracts. If they have wedding insurance, which is a tiny amount out of any wedding budget then they should be covered for many of the circumstances that result in cancellation.
13- SHOOT PERSONAL WORK
It’s so easy to end up just shooting for work and that’s like a dancer just turning up on show night. You need to flex your creative muscles away from paid jobs. It will keep you inspired and energized to be more creative with the work that makes you money.
14- NEVER DISCOUNT
I understand that sometimes this looks like a good strategy for an oversaturated market but trust me, it’s just a race to the bottom. People will never value you if they think they got you for cheap and that’s a hard place to be as a creative. Instead look at ways of adding value to your services and work on your brand.
15- PROVIDE ALBUMS AND PRINTS
Speaking of added value, people still want physical products. At some point everyone decided to just provide digital downloads and online slideshows. While you can create gorgeous galleries and slideshows – I use ShootProof and SmartSlides – people still love to have images in books and on their walls. So after the wedding, I send the couple a beautiful box from Wooden Banana with a USB and some prints from their wedding. I also create a 100 image photo book from their selection of favourites.
16- ATTEND WORKSHOPS AND CONFERENCES
Most industries have training days and their own conferences. Making an effort to attend them will keep your skill set up to date and help with that networking we spoke about. Our next event with Photography Farm is our Scottish Shoot Day with incredible stylists GLOAM and special guests Claire Fleck on May 27th, and you’d be super welcome.
17- READ YOUR CAMERA MANUAL
I know that when you get a new camera that you just want to get out and shoot with it but taking time to get to know all of its tools and features will mean that you can shoot in any conditions. As a wedding photographer in the UK, this is pretty vital.
18- MAINTAIN YOUR KIT
Any job that requires equipment will need a certain amount of maintenance. If you were a taxi driver, you wouldn’t neglect looking after your vehicle. Get your kit serviced once a year, keep your firmware updated and your sensor clean. If you shoot Sony, like me, then look out for them at Pro Days in stores or at shows where you can usually get this done for free.
19- GO TO GALLERIES
As much as you can, look at Art in the flesh. I promise it will always, always inspire you. Paintings, Sculptures, Photography – it is all about composition and light and there is a magic to seeing it in galleries.
20- BUY PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS AND MAGAZINES
Yes, Instagram is where it’s at for looking at photography but I still feel there is nothing better than owning beautiful photography books and picking up magazines. Photography, fashion, lifestyle, food, music – in an online world let’s never forget how it feels to hold something in our hands, to smell the pages and to refill your inspiration tank.
- Photography: Devlin Photos
- Art Direction: Kat Williams
- Stylist: The Bijou Bride
- Hair: Christina Tescu
- Make Up: Shani Mushington
- Flowers: Katherine Bly Floral Design
- Cake: Cat Food Cakes
- Assistant: Sam Luck